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No Christmas for Myanmar Christians amid rising attacks

Military regime continues to target churches in predominantly Christian Chin and Kayah states
No Christmas for Myanmar Christians amid rising attacks

This handout image from the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) taken and released on December 25, 2021, shows burnt vehicles in Hpruso township in Myanmar's Kayah state. (Photo: AFP/ KNDF)

Published: January 03, 2022 09:34 AM GMT
Updated: January 03, 2022 09:38 AM GMT

Myanmar’s military has continued targeting churches and civilians in the predominantly Christian Chin state ignoring calls by world and religious leaders to end the attacks.

On Dec. 30, the Assembly of God church and another belonging to the Association of Baptist Churches in the deserted town of Thantlang were burnt down by soldiers, according to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

The conflict-ravaged town has seen five churches and more than 450 houses damaged by fire so far. Across Chin state, some 22 churches and 350 civilian homes were burned or destroyed by the military between August and November 2021, said CHRO.

The latest military targeting of churches came just days after a Christmas massacre in Mo So village of Hpruso township, Kayah state, a Catholic stronghold region in eastern Myanmar.

Some 35 civilians including women, children and two aid workers from Save the Children were killed by troops and their bodies set on fire on Dec. 24.

A funeral was held for the victims who were all Catholics in Hpruso township on Dec.29. It was reportedly led by catechists as a local priest was not allowed to officiate by the military, said local sources.

The killings shocked the world and drew swift condemnation from Cardinal Charles Bo who called it a “heartbreaking and horrific atrocity.”

“The fact that the bodies of those killed, burned and mutilated were found on Christmas Day makes this appalling tragedy even more poignant and sickening. As much of the world celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, the people of Mo So village suffered the terrible shock and grief of an outrageous act of inhumanity,” he said.

Cardinal Bo, who is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar (CBCM), urged the military “to stop bombing and shelling innocent people, to stop destroying homes and churches, schools and clinics” and to begin “a dialogue with the democracy movement and ethnic armed groups.”

The outspoken cardinal's appeal came just three days after he met with Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing to mark Christmas at the Archbishop's house in Yangon on Dec.23.

The cardinal was heavily criticized by Catholic and non-Christian groups for meeting the coup leader and cutting a cake together.

Within hours of the Dec.23 meeting, the military junta launched airstrikes in the Karen state forcing thousands of people to flee their homes into neighboring Thailand.

Ignoring repeated appeals by the world and religious leaders including Pope Francis, Myanmar’s military regime has continued attacking villages and ethnic areas where armed resistance has been the strongest.

For Christians in Chin and Kayah states, there were no Christmas and New Year celebrations due to the fighting. They have borne the brunt of a decades-old civil war and faced oppression and persecution at the hands of the military.

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